My Girragundji, by Meme McDonald & Boori Monty Pryor
This beautiful little book was awarded the CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers in 1999, and this is the 20th anniversary edition of the book.
For such a small book, this story really delivers an emotional punch. My Girragundji is told from the point of view of a young boy, on the cusp of adolescence. He lives with his seven sisters and three brothers and is just starting to notice girls. We learn that he is passionate about football. The boy's voice is lively with humour and honesty, as he directly addresses the reader in a conversational tone, so that we feel privy to his inner most secrets.
This is a story of overcoming fear, of resilience and courage, of culture and family.
Our young narrator is afraid of the Hairyman - a bad spirit who roams the hallways at night time. But his fear doesn't abate when morning comes - as he musters up all his strength to face the bullies at school.
When a little tree frog comes to find him one night, the young boy knows that "those old people sent her to protect my spirit." With the sweet little frog by his side, the boy finds he can summon up the courage to face his fears - the dreaded Hairyman and the bullies at school.
There is a lyricism to the flow of this beautiful story. The large text is perfect for confident young readers to manage independently. Black and white photos break up the text, perfectly enhancing the narrative and providing additional insights into the world of the boy and his family.
This is a story with many layers of meaning and context woven throughout the narrative, making this book suitable for a young adult audience as well as a middle grade audience. The beauty in this book is that is seems to transcend the boundaries between middle grade and young adult fiction. There is much to be discussed around themes presented in the story - around issues of fear, racism, bullying, family and culture.
Ultimately, this story will empower young readers to draw on their inner strength to face their fears.
Boori Monty Prior's mother's people are Knuggandji and his father is from the Birra-gubba Nation.
Published by Allen & Unwin